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The kids go back . . . and I return to poetry book



Date Published: {J}

There’s an alarming fall off in the light in the evenings, the kids are traipsing back to school . . . and, once again, the old chestnut has been raised about the possibility of hand-me-down schoolbooks being more widely in use in a bid to cut costs to hard-pressed parents.

Yes, I do recall the days when you got your history books, your English poetry textbok and others from a brother of sister who was a year or two ahead of you in school . . . and you were expected to keep them in reasonable ‘nick’ for maybe one more swop.

Hand-me-downs in both books and clothes did seem to happen a lot more then than now, The book publishers are on record as saying they are trying to keep editions current as long as possible . . . but technology could eventually see the discussion and the booksellers redundant, for the ‘electronic book’ is arrived.

I recently saw a school in Mayo which was going ‘all electronic’ in a bid to cut down the weight of schoolbags and I thought, how sad. I wouldn’t exchange the smell of a book, or a newspaper, for anything.


I’m afraid I was finished the schooling a few years before Soundings, perhaps the most famous of the poetry books, and certainly the most durable of the textbooks, came along. It was intended as a stopgap measure while they worked on a more modern anthology and notes, but it was introduced in 1969 and lasted in use for twenty six years.

I am not aware that close on a generation emerged from schools with a glaring gap in their English education, despite the durability of one of their major textbooks.

However, I may well be corrected by some educator who can point out that many more modern poets might have been included much earlier in the syllabus. To my mind the concept of rhyme and metre seem to have gone out the window in recent times, but that is just a personal opinion and may be a bit old-fashioned.

Hardly surprising that nostalgia sent me rummaging in the garage on all those shelves for my copy of Soundings . . . perhaps I should more correctly describe it as the copy owned by more than one of my sons, but I might hazard a guess that it has been more thumbed by yours truly in latter years than any of my youngsters.

Couldn’t find the original edition, of course, with all of its tiny drawings of matchstick men, underlinings, incomprehensible notes written in the margins . . . but I did succeed in finding the new facsimile edition which was re-published a few years ago in memory of the original, and because there was such a demand for the book in secondhand stores.

My memory of the Leaving Certificate poetry is that one of my particular favourites was John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Each year they had a different ‘book’ from the epic poem. In my year it was Paradise Lost Book 1, which dealt with the fall of our First Parents, though the entire work was taken up with Satan and the hosts of angels who fell with him.

In my era, Paradise Lost Book 1 was a separate publication which came with excellent notes ….. my difficulty was that you might be expected to see Satan as the great betrayer who was suffering the justified wrath of the Almighty, but , like many another, I found myself with a ‘sneaking regard’ for the underdog who was condemned to hell’s fire.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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